Need for Essential Services

Increasing penetration of variable renewable energy resources leads to a set of increasingly difficult challenges: they are weather dependent, inherently more distributed, and are accompanied by more energy storage and a much more actively varied demand. At the heart of these research challenges are “essential services” that need to evolve with the changing characteristics of the power system and are fundamental to its socio-technical objective of “reliably maintaining supply-demand balance, at all points in time, at all locations, at least cost, equitably, and with minimum impact on the environment”.

These essential services determine: the operation and planning of the electricity grid across all time scales; the required characteristics of the technologies connected to the power system; and, through commercial mechanisms, the incentives to innovate and invest and to do so equitably. Current state-of-the-art (e.g., capacity adequacy, ancillary services etc.) falls far short of future essential service requirements, and we are in danger of developing electricity grids that are costly, unreliable, inequitable and not resilient and will therefore not deliver the step-change needed for the energy transition.  What is missing is a unifying framework for procuring essential services through which the right combination of solutions is found, recognising that system characteristics, technical and societal, vary by location. These services need to both adapt to the changing needs of the grid, society, and the changing capabilities of new technologies that are connected to the grid (e.g., increased digitalisation) to obtain an optimal technology mix on both the supply and demand side.

The Grant

The project is funded by a £4M grant from the Leverhulme Trust that will support a team of 14 over a five-year period and is hosted by the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Imperial College London. For further details please contact Mark O’Malley, Leverhulme Professor of Power Systems, Imperial College London.